Success starts with thinking differently from everyone else, because then you can achieve differently from everyone else. Two young entrepreneurs, Anand Sinha (28) and George Abraham (27), seem to be firm believers in this philosophy. Their venture, PressPlay (Press to play the video of your choice!), happens to be one of those companies that has brought in a refreshing new way in which video content is consumed on smartphones and tablets in India.
Given that broadband speed is not consistent across various geographies, a mix of strategically placed PressPlay wireless hotspots in buses, trains, railway platforms, coffee shops, hospitals and other high traffic areas along with online streaming over 3G/4G have been deployed to deliver uninterrupted high quality video content, says Anand, the co-founder and CEO of PressPlay. This fast-growing startup has already raised $2.2 million as seed funding, one of the highest in India from Sequoia Capital. Angel investors, including Jason Hirschhorn(former co-president MySpace), Jarett Posner (managing partner, Posner Group, and Amit Bhatiani (partner, CX Partners) have invested $500,000 in an earlier round of funding.
Origin of the idea
Having cut his metal in frontline sales involving a lot of travel, the germ of the idea of making available high quality video content anytime, anywhere was seeded in Anand’s mind. Those long journeys on trains and buses, waiting for the client and other occasions where little else could be done were opportunities waiting to be cashed in on. A chance renting of a tablet during an overnight journey in an interstate bus set him thinking. Can this be developed into a viable business model in August 2014?
Anand then joined hands with his friend and colleague from Zomato, George Abraham and founded PressPlay TV. They bought 1,000 tablets of Rs 6,000 each and loaded videos and movies onto them for renting to inter-state travelers. The operations were launched across long distance interstate buses pan-India across all major bus routes and were and instant a success. Swift breakeven was another attraction; with 60 transactions of R100 each, the cost was recovered. And at this time Angel round also helped them.
The business though good lacked scalability. This set them thinking about how to get the scale while preserving the core business idea. Then came the hotspots and they were spot-on. Playing on the accelerating penetration of smartphones in India, they launched the PressPlay TV hotspots in long distance AC buses, by tying up with state road transport undertakings and private players. Now with one hotspot they could reach out to tens and hundreds of users. And there was no need for internet since the hotspots resided in the buses, hospitals, restaurants, trains and other places and the videos were streamed through Wi-Fi absolutely free at the hands of consumers. However this was a great advertising platform as the audience was absolutely captive. Thus the revenues started coming in. Then came
Sequoia’s $ 2.2 million and they never looked back.
To further increase the market presence PressPlay TV Android app has been launched; the current user run rate is at 1 million users per month, making PressPlay TV India’s largest and the only independent OTT platform, which offers video on demand ‘on+off line’ using a hybrid model. Anand informs that the PressPlay TV service can be enjoyed on smartphones, phablets, tablets or laptops. “We offer the latest exciting movies and trending videos from across the internet in more than 30+ channels (going to 50) like Bollywood, comedy, TV shows, music & more. Also, when connected offline to one of 3,000 (and counting) dedicated PressPlay hotspots across India, viewers can watch or download latest movies, TV shows & videos for free in HD at super fast speeds without any buffering.”
Another important differentiator is that PressPlay TV is an independent OTT platform; the users get to watch programmes across the spectrum of channels and content producers. “We are also the only platform that is curating videos and offering most trending ones to the users. We are betting big on snackable vidoes, that is, videos ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in duration, as per our data these are the ones that the consumers prefer to watch,” says Anand.
PressPlay TV has already tied up, on the supply side, with leading movie studios, video content companies and popular independent artists and on the demand side, partnered with top travel operators, railways, hotels and hospitals to offer best in class content anytime, anywhere. The iOS version of the app is due to be launched soon. “The company will also launch a desktop browser, which will make the service universally accessible,” says Anand.
Business success so far
PressPlay TV’s business model is advertising based—AvoD (advertising video on demand. The company’s USP —viewer captivity and engagement offers very strong value for advertising other brands (other app companies, brands etc). The company plans to offer ‘Premium content’. “Freemium (free+premium content) is the way to go ahead; this model is especially suited for content-based companies like PressPlay. This will ensure that the user base is intact while the content is being monetised. PressPlay will soon be launching TVoD (transaction video on demand) and SVod (subscription video on demand) to further reinforce its revenue model,” informs Anand.
“We plan to build India’s largest video content discovery and distribution platform across mobile devices,” says Anand. The PressPlay Hotspots are set to increase four times their existing number, from 3000 to 10,000 by the year-end. These would be spread across top bus travel operators, railways, hotels, hospitals and quick service restaurants (QSR) to good content anytime, anywhere. “We will be focusing on content to make the user experience deeper and richer. In the long run, PressPlay TV will also be producing exclusive video content,” he informs.
Without doubt, PressPlay TV promises to be an interesting next generation video streaming platform that will redefine the way video content is consumed in the country.